Monday, 13 April 2015

Cinema Paradiso

Lowdown: The tale of a friendship between a boy and a cinema projector in post WW2 Sicily.
Following a chain of rather disappointing movies, I sought for the tried and tested; Netflix handed me a fine opportunity with the 1988 Italian movie Cinema Paradiso (aka Nuovo Cinema Paradiso). I grabbed that opportunity with both hands, even if – production value wise – it cannot compete with modern stuff. Cinema Paradiso's frame may be squarish, as was common in European cinema prior to the introduction of the 16:9 TV screens; the picture quality may be bad, too. The movie, however, has more heart than everything Hollywood comes up with.
Proceedings start with a well to do Rome based guy coming back to his apartment to hear from the woman currently residing in his bed that his mother called with news that "Alfredo" died. Turns out our Roman guy hasn’t been home for more than 30 years. As he goes to bed, he flashes back to his childhood at a Sicilian town in immediate post World War 2 times, where the bulk of Cinema Paradiso - the movie - resides.
Our now successful Roman guy is the child Salvatore, an altar boy whose dad did not come back from the war yet. The general way of life is vastly affected by the war that was, but Salvatore has himself a refuge: the local cinema, Paradiso. You see, his employer – the vicar – goes there to review upcoming movies in order to ensure anything remotely sexual, like a kissing scene, is cut off. One doesn’t want the hearts and minds of innocent Sicilians contaminated by such obscenities!
The experience opens young Salvatore to the riches of this world, at least imagination wise. At first his relationship with Alfredo, the projector running things at the Paradiso, mainly revolves around him pulling children tricks on the adult. Eventually, though, they become good friends in a relationship that’s powered by Salvatore’s lack of a father and love of the cinema. The movie goes on to cover key events in Salvatore’s life as he grows up – like falling in love for the first time – and these are always in the shadow of the cinema. Those kisses that were cut also act as a running theme, contributing to the movie poster amongst others.
While there are numerous running themes in Cinema Paradiso, there can be no doubt the dominant one is to do with the love of cinema as projected (pun intended) when life mirrors film. There is most definitely a sense of longing for the way things used to be with cinemas: the whole town gathering, on a regular basis, if not every night, to watch the latest movie together. The contrast between that and the future state, which happens to be the state of our cinemas at present, is obvious. Yet, if I have to contribute my 2c, I will say - fuck the cinemas! I grew up on movies as well; definitely not the way they're portrayed in Cinema Paradiso, I'm much too young to have partaken in that world, but I know my way around a movie theatre (as opposed to the local multiplex).
What did the movie theatres do for us lately, though? Gone are those big screens; gone is the glamour; enter rip off, unaffordable prices and extra surcharges at every angle (even for watching a movie on a "bigger screen" that's actually smaller than the pre-multiplex screens that used to capture my imagination). So if this is what the world of cinema has to offer us, then screw the world of cinema; as noted, I was watching Cinema Paradiso on Netflix, thank you very much.
The situation is actually worse. Today's cinemas have much bigger aspirations than getting people to spend money at the movies. Village Roadshow, for example, has been a major donor to both of Australia's two biggest political parties. With recent court decisions going in favour of the company behind Dallas Buyers Club, suggested legislation to punish pirates, as well as web censorship, it seems as if Village is getting its value for money. Australian movie watchers suffer the consequences, though.
Cinema Paradiso clearly suffers from poor production values. These, however, pale in comparison to what the cinema industry is doing today.
Overall: A charming piece of nostalgia well worth 4 out of 5 nostalgic crabs.

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